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Juicing vs Whole Foods

By Perrin Braun, December 10, 2014


Fruits and vegetables are rich in the vitamins and minerals that help your body stay healthy and help you feel good. One way to eat your produce is juicing, or extracting the liquid from fruits and vegetables with a specially designed machine. For many busy people, drinking fruits and vegetables is a convenient way to increase daily servings of produce (like apples, spinach, and oranges). InsideTracker can tell you which fruits and vegetables have the optimal mix of nutrients for your individual needs. But does drinking juice really offer the same health benefits that you get from consuming whole foods? image

What is a “whole food”?

A whole food hasn’t been processed. In nature, fruits and vegetables are perfect whole foods because they contain only one ingredient—themselves. No nutrition label is needed for foods like apples, kale, and carrots. Fruits and vegetables have the nutrients and fiber that the body needs and can utilize. However, juice is only part of a whole food that has been processed (or separated) using a machine, so it cannot be considered a whole food. 



What’s the difference between juicing and blending?

When you make juice, you’re extracting the pulp of vegetables and fruits, leaving behind a juice in a smooth liquid state. Conversely, blending is just simply combining all the ingredients that you place in your blender, which results in a smoothie that contains all the pulp, fiber, liquid, and nutrients. Smoothies are much heavier than juices, so they also keep you fuller for longer. Whole foods can be difficult to chew and some vegetables don’t taste good when they are consumed raw—blending your fruits and vegetables can solve this problem!

Is there anything lacking in juice?

Fiber is the major component missing in juice. This nutrient helps your body to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood, works to improve your digestion, and makes you feel fuller for longer. The skins, peel, and pulp of many fruits and vegetables are naturally high in fiber, but they are typically removed during the juicing process. Therefore, when you drink apple juice, your blood sugar levels rise more quickly than they would if you had eaten an apple.

A sharp rise in your blood sugar causes your pancreas to release more insulin, which can result in a “sugar crash”, or a decrease in energy. If you’re juicing, be sure to keep in mind that some fruits and vegetables have a higher sugar content than others.  Although vegetables generally have less sugar than fruits, carrot and beet juices are very high in sugar.  InsideTracker can provide you with recommendations for foods that are low in sugar; so if you’re interested in consuming healthier types of juices, sign up to learn which foods are best suited for your needs. 

Can I drink juice to lose weight?

It depends! To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume. Drinking juice might hinder your weight loss efforts because juices are high in  sugar, which makes them more caloric than whole fruits or vegetables. For instance, an orange contains about 60 calories, but one serving of orange juice (about eight ounces) has roughly 110 calories. Vegetable juices tend to be lower in sugar than fruit juices, but be sure to check the label for calories and sugar if you’re purchasing pre-made juices. Since juice is also lacking in fiber, it won’t satiate you the same way that eating a whole fruit or vegetable might. Eating whole foods is also slower than drinking. There has been some research that shows that people who eat slowly tend to consume fewer calories and feel more satiated than quick eaters.

Additionally, “juice cleanses” are increasing in popularity, and some are advertised as weight-loss methods. A juice cleanse generally involves substituting juice for food. Proponents claim that this process will rid the body of certain toxins, but consuming too much juice and fluid can cause diarrhea and loss of water weight, which can harm your liver and kidneys. Since electrolytes are found in your bodily fluids, your kidneys have to work harder to fluid water balance when you lose too much water weight. Consuming only juice, no matter how nutrient-rich it is, is not a healthy diet because it lacks other essential macronutrients: fat and protein. Juice can certainly be part of a weight-loss regimen if consumed in moderation, but should not be relied to sustain an active body.

Are all juices equal?

Some juices are higher in sugar than others. If you are willing to purchase a juicer (some brands are expensive!), preparing juice at home gives you more control over the ingredients, making it easier to consume a healthier product. Keep in mind that whatever kind of fruit or vegetable you choose, the juice will only be as nutritious as the original product. Ideally, you would use fresh and seasonal produce, which are generally riper (and therefore contain more nutrients) than unseasonal foods that have traveled long distances to get to your juicer. It’s also important to drink your juice as soon as possible since many nutrients tend to break down once they are exposed to light and air. Many people also don’t realize that bacteria can grow in fresh juice! If you’re making your own juice, either juice only what you can consume in one sitting or purchase juice that has been pasteurized. 

Conversely, those fancy-looking bottles of juice that you see at the health food store may not be all that healthy because some of the nutrients might have been lost by the time it reaches your glass. Be sure to check the label before you buy because many brands also contain added sugars and preservatives. If you’re looking for juice with the greatest nutritional value, you’re probably better off making your own.

Are there any benefits to juicing?

Juicing is a great way to help you reach your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, but in some cases, your body misses out on several key nutrients. So, should you drink more juice? If you would not eat many fruits and vegetables otherwise, than the answer is probably yes. Drinking juice can help you increase your intake of potassium, iron, and vitamins A and C. Athletes can also drink juice as another way to hydrate. However, while juicing can be part of a healthy eating plan, try to make whole fruits and vegetables a priority when choosing what to eat.

If you’re interested in drinking more juice for health reasons, talk with your doctor, especially if you have problems processing sugar.